By Ricky Richardson, Contributing Writer

(Inglewood, CA.) – The Black Student Union of St. Mary’s Academy hosted the inaugural Essence Festival, a student led, free community event showcasing Black excellence. The festival was held outdoors on the Shea Athlete Field, Saturday, April 2nd, 12:00-3:00pm.

St, Mary’s Academy issue a statement in a Press Release. Honoring its statement of purpose, “to provide the Black Student population with an environment conducive to learning and teaching ourselves and others, in order to foster a productive cross-cultural understanding.” 

Students, parents and community members were in attendance at this fabulous event that has the potential for growth and become an annual signature event for all involved. The Black Student Union members demonstrated leadership, communications and collaborating skills, and empowerment to organize this awesome festival.

St. Mary’s Academy Principal Mary Rose Batungbacal enthusiastically supports the students on their commitments, dedication organizing the festival. In a release statement, Batungbacal stated “we are incredibly proud to support the amazing Belles of BSU who are compelled to bring their vision to reality to celebrate Black culture with the community of Inglewood at St. Mary’s Academy! The Essence Festival is everything we, as a faith-based educational institution, stand for: lifting up the voices of our students, advocating for justice, and serving our dear neighboring community.”

Poncho Williams and Richard Turner (Photo by Ricky Richardson)

The festival featured live cultural performances for attendees as they strolled around the festival grounds. Saxophonist Poncho Williams and keyboardist Richard Turner has been performing together for more than twenty years. This dynamic duo provided a set of jazz for the crowd. The duo was superb on “Maiden Voyage,” “Misty,” “Summertime,” “Blue Bossa” and “Girl From Ipanema” during their first set.

Transfiguration School Drum Ensemble, Evelyn Rickenbacker, Principal, and Christopher Robinson, Teacher (Photo by Ricky Richardson)

Transfiguration School Drum Ensemble under the direction of Christopher Robinson, thrilled the crowd with some West African Drumming. Mrs. Evelyn Rickenbacker, Principal, Transfiguration Elementary School was in attendance in support of the talented students.

Designs by DHB (Photo by Ricky Richardson)

The Festival featured a variety of unique, one-of-a-kind goods and services offered by local Black-owned businesses. The Plant Mon; House of Mosaic Candles; Moonlight Bath Treats; Designs by DHB (jewelry); Gentleman’s Collections (jewelry); DA Funki Eye Clothing (Wear Funk Meet the Eye); The Anointed Hands-Called to Create (Hats, clothing artwork, jewelry, and greeting cards); Queen Enterprises (jewelry and accessories); Grannies Goodies (tote bags, purses, pot holders and utensils, pillows and boutique items; Asali- Uniquely Beautiful Handcrafted items from Africa; Lonkente-Abstract Artist; and Artwork for sale by students.

St. Mary’s Academy, a Catholic, private, college preparatory high school for young women, founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Corondelet, shapes women of distinction who are committed to lifelong learning and service to the “dear neighbor.”

All proceeds from St. Mary’s Academy Black Student Union Essence Festival will be donated to the Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM). BEAM is dedicated to using educational, training, advocacy and the creative arts to bring emotional healthcare to the Black community. https://beam.communjity.